Four-day pause in Reds season was ‘shock to the system’ for Votto

The Cincinnati Reds have done just enough to stay in the postseason picture, which isn’t a big accomplishment when more than half the teams will make the playoffs in 2020, and not enough to create any excitement about their chances in the next five weeks.

The Reds (10-13) have one two-game winning streak and one three-game winning streak. They haven’t been above .500 since a victory on Opening Day and have enjoyed only two days at .500 (1-1 on July 25 and 5-5 on Aug. 3).

The four-day break, which included three postponements, because of a positive COVID-19 test last Friday, did not help.

“The layoff was very tough,” said Reds first baseman Joey Votto on Thursday before the start of a four-game series in St. Louis. “Personally I showed it the first game back, making that error and then looking sloppy offensively. It’s really, really tough pausing in the middle of a Major League Baseball season. I don’t envy the players that aren’t everyday players that have to come off the bench.”

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Counting the three weeks of Summer Camp and the first three weeks of the season, the Reds had played what amounted to another spring training, Votto said. He said he got 10-20 plate appearances during Summer Camp, but even those weren’t as valuable as they would have been in a normal spring training because he was hitting against Reds pitchers on the same field each time.

In 20 appearances this season, Votto is hitting .238 with three home runs and eight RBIs. Jesse Winker (.350) is the only Reds starter hitting over .260.

Votto felt he was building momentum when the season was put on hold last weekend.

“Now all of a sudden you get this pause,” Votto said, “and beyond that you don’t get to work, go to the field, do all the skill work you need to do. It was a genuine shock to my system, and I’d never experienced it before.”

Votto’s error in the first inning Wednesday in Game 1 of a doubleheader helped lead to three runs and a 4-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

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“I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty heated yesterday,” Votto said. “I dropped that ball, and it leads to a rough first thing and that was more or less the game. It was really frustrating. There’s nothing I pride myself more on than the defensive side of things.

“I want to be a well rounded player. I just feel like a four-day pause in the middle of the season with a lot of uncertainty is really challenging. I don’t want to complain because this is what we signed up for. This the deal.”

At the same time, Votto said the change in routine has been difficult for everybody. A game built around routine has been upended by the near-daily COVID-19 testing and the many health-and-safety protocols in place to keep the players safe.

“This is a different version of baseball than I’m used to and that everyone’s used to,” Votto said. “We’re making do. We’re going to get through this, of course, but it’s not the same. It’s challenging for sure having to get up and make sure you test from 9-11 a.m. Maybe you need more rest. We don’t have that luxury right now. It’s fair. It’s fine. It’s part of it. But I’m noticing that personally my performance is suffering. And that’s not an excuse. I’m going to try and get through it, but that’s the way I feel about it.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Reds at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410

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